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Prince Philip - The traumas of childhood revealed by his hands

I’ve just been reading a very interesting article on the BBC website about Prince Philip’s early life (Prince Philip: A turbulent childhood stalked by exile, mental illness and death). As the title suggests, his early years were extremely disrupted and lacked a secure, stable and loving home conducive with raising a secure, stable and loving individual. Yet Prince Philip only ever came across as a strong and reliable husband, a potentially successful military leader and a dependable family man. I thought it would be interesting to have a look at his hands and see what signs of his turbulent childhood there were and how he over came them.

Let’s go from the top: It’s always best to assess the main features of a hand first rather than getting drawn in by the seeming juicy details of the lineal features. You can easily miss something or fail to appreciate the context of the background energy of the person.

Prince Philip had a fire hand shape, but his palm was quite wide and even looks square in some photos. His basic energy was fire-earth giving a creative and energetic energy motivated by competition, excitement and new things but channeled by the earth influence of steady structures, consistency and reliability. Fire-earth hand shapes are very common in the armed services naturally fitting into the established authoritative regimes and enjoying the excitement, challenge and physicality of the military life. Working with machines, both the large metal type and the smooth-running organisation type, are the perfect fire-earth environment. Prince Philip was a naval officer and by all accounts would have continued on to have a shining career if he had not had his freedom curtailed by the death of George VI the Queen’s father. There are other Royals with this hand shape, hence with common accord they enjoy very fire-earth type recreation together – countryside sports, breeding animals (horses or dogs), riding and driving (horses or Land Rovers) all have that mix of excitement and challenge mixed with established tradition.

The internal stability of the fire-earth hand would also have helped him steady himself during the traumas of his childhood. And they were traumas: his family were exiled from Greece when he was less than two years old; his stone deaf mother suffered a mental breakdown and was forcibly institutionalised by her sister when Philip was eight; his father gave up parenting shortly afterwards and left him with his aunt who shipped him off to boarding schools where he learnt to be tough, hide his feelings and “just get on with it”. There were also several significant bereavements before he was old enough to leave school.

You can see that his early life was difficult quite clearly on his hands: on both hands the beginnings of his Major Earth line are very islanded (see arrow 1 on both hands) and the two lines Major Lines of Earth and Air are not held securely together. In addition, on both hands the Major Earth line is comparatively short ending on the right hand in a bunch of messy island type formations, and on the left in multiple reduplications (see arrow 2 on both hands). Together these features show a child with very insecure beginnings, he would have felt emotionally unsafe as a young boy and lacked a sense of rootedness and attachment to his primary care givers that children need to thrive emotionally. If you look at the beginning of his Major water line (see arrow 3 right hand) you will also see a large island indicating emotional insecurity (N.B. also note that this is a superb example of a short Life Line not indicating a short life!).

In many children this would have been enough to send them off the rails. Children with these features often seek attention through challenging behaviour, desperate for a responsible adult in their lives to set strong boundaries, contain them and make them feel safe. However, the young prince would not have had the freedom to behave badly as shown by the Major Air Lines that start underneath the Major Earth Lines on both hands (see arrow 4 on both hands). There was no opportunity for him to think freely and his early environment, although chaotic in many respects, was no doubt also authoritarian and rigid, full of the behavioural expectations of upper-class early 20th Century England. Consequently, Prince Philip was forced to drive his feelings underground.

His education at strict, and what some might call oppressive, public schools channeled his thinking and prevented any rebellion (more evidence of the repressed beginning of his Major Air Line). However, as Prince Phillip often said, his school experience was a good one that helped him become the man he grew into. It perhaps provided the safe boundaries and secure sense of rootedness that his early life lacked. Security was found extrinsically rather than having formed intrinsically by effective early parenting. This is evidenced on his hand by the strong beginning to his Minor Earth Line that starts at the base of both hands and seems to take over from the Major Earth Line in this lower section of the hand (see arrow 5 both hands). You could say that individual and intellectual freedom was crushed as he was forced (through his upbringing and education) to take on the expected roles of his position in the aristocracy.

Interestingly, both hands also show a clearly formed sister line running inside the Major Earth Lines starting roughly about 20-25 years old just at the end of the last island at the beginning of his Major Earth Lines (see 6 on both hands – less defined on the passive hand but still evident). I think this is the start of the union with Princess Elizabeth, as she was then. Following this line down you can see it is clearly formed, and continuous running beyond the end of the Major Earth Line and circling the ball of the thumb at its end. I suggest that this indicated that his relationship with the Queen and position as consort to the Monarch finally provided him with the security, rootedness and clear boundaries in his adult life that he lacked as a young child. So, while giving up his navy career to take his place beside the newly crowned young Queen Elizabeth was a blow to his extrinsic source of stability, this was replaced with the stability of his position in the royal family and his marriage (These issues are explored in detail in the Crown – definitely worth a watch).

Like many men of his generation, Prince Philip was not an emotionally expressive person. Aside from quite a few gaffs and thoughtless comments which by the 1970’s became his trademark, he has always been a proper stiff upper lipped royal with exceptional professionalism and the appropriate decorum for his position. As we have seen, this behaviour was learnt during childhood and is evidenced on his hands quite clearly. Firstly, on his right hand there is a line that seem to cap off the water quadrant (see arrow 7 right hand). The photo is not high enough resolution to see clearly so its difficult to tell if they come in from the ulna side or are upper extensions of the Major Air Line. In addition to this there are reduplicated endings on both Major Water Lines showing he had a well-practiced professional front (see arrows 8 both hand). Together, their effect is to add a fear of emotion expression, a reluctance to speak from the heart preferring to say what is expected, what maintains order and what is appropriate for social/family position. He would not have liked emotional exuberance, public displays of sorrow or anger or anything else, either from himself or those around him.

Many people who experienced trauma in childhood end up with a straight Lower Minor Water Line that cuts into the lower part of the water quadrant and Prince Phillip is no exception (see arrow 9 both hands). This is evidence of emotional wounding, usually at an early age and manifests as a need for intensity. People with this line seek out activities that satisfy that need. In some it might be sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyles, Prince Philip preferred crazy dangerous carriage driving, and fast paced Polo, which he no doubt found exhilarating and satisfying for his Lower Minor Water Line. This article is an interesting read on his life in sport: Prince Phillip, a royal with a deep connection to sport.

Without prints it difficult to go any deeper into his life. There is also much more to say about him generally but I have answered the question I posed at the start of the article and think it is time to stop. In summary, it seems that the threat to his stability that the turbulence of his early years caused was somewhat mitigated by the restrictions of his public-school education and the security of his marriage to the Queen. The cost was emotional and intellectual freedom. How he might have fared under different circumstances is an interesting question, but I would argue that his circumstances and resulting psychological and emotional disposition provided the grounds for his successful marriage to the Queen of England where he had no choice but to stay in line, support her unquestioningly and sacrifice his own freedoms. He made a faithful and constant companion for the Queen who would have otherwise been extremely lonely all these years in her elevated and isolated position as monarch. I send her my sincere and heartfelt condolences for the loss of her closest and dearest partner and friend.

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